Thursday, April 26, 2012

Oral Argument in US Supreme Court about Arizona's Immigration Law SB 1070

On 4/25/12 the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of Arizona's controversial immigration law SB 1070 that confers powers of immigration inquiry and detention of aliens on local police if they believe that the subject aliens are in the U.S. illegally. Chief Justice Roberts made it clear that he did not want the oral arguments to turn into a case about racial or ethnic profiling. The Court wanted to make sure the arguments primarily addressed the Supremacy Clause argument. This argument states that immigration is a federal domain, therefore, it preempts any state's efforts to control immigration issues. The attorney for Arizona agreed and stated that Arizona did not intend to compete with the U.S. in enforcing immigration policy, but merely wanted to be a junior enforcer to the federal authorities. One of the explicit purposes of the law is "attrition by enforcement." That means that if aliens suspected of being in the country are interrogated and detained until their immigration status can be verified, they will likely pack up and leave voluntarily. But this could result in mass incarcerations because even citizens don't walk around with citizenship papers or birth certificates. So, if a citizen is detained and his immigration status is not verified for several days, he could be held for that long. The Supreme Court showed no interest in such possible effects of the implementation of the law; the justices were only interested in the preemptive nature of the law. If the law is upheld, mass incarceration could be its immediate effect. Most of the justices seemed to indicate that they might side with Arizona on this case. Although, with Justice Elena Kagan having disqualified herself from the case, the votes would have to be at least 5-3 for either side to prevail. 

So, what to do?
If you live or work in Arizona, chances are that after the Court renders the decision, the local police may be able to ask anyone for documentation to prove citizenship or authority to stay in the U.S. So, if you don't carry papers in Arizona, you may likely be incarcerated by local police on immigration violation charges-- even if you have H1B status but don' have your papers with you.

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